16 years later, rapist sentenced in Minneapolis riverfront attack

Sixteen years after a horrific riverfront attack on a woman in Minneapolis, the victim and her family have finally received justice. Her rapist, Robert DeLong, was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Thursday.

The victim-survivor, who FOX 9 is not publicly identifying, was not in court to witness the end of a grueling legal odyssey as this case has multiple layers of tragedy.

Soon after this woman was attacked and raped at gunpoint, she was involved in a deadly car crash during a ski trip out West. She survived but needs constant care to this day. So, a loved one spoke for her in court at sentencing.

"This man will never, ever do this to another woman again," said a grateful Sheila Biernat after stepping out of the courtroom.

It was Biernat's close relative who was attacked and assaulted at gunpoint on Boom Island, March 23, 2007.

"It's been a long time coming. It's been really hard," Biernat told FOX 9's Paul Blume.

Biernat delivered a powerful victim impact statement. Her loved one, who was in her 20s at the time, would end up back at Sheila's nearby home in Northeast Minneapolis that evening, where she was able to preserve some DNA from the assault.

Investigators subsequently made a direct connection to DeLong through the DNA evidence.

After DeLong served a long stint in federal prison for an unrelated bank robbery, the Hennepin County Attorney's Office never let the rape case go.

DeLong, now 63 years old, pleaded guilty in May. Hennepin County District Court Judge Carolina Lamas sentenced him to 30 years in prison Thursday afternoon, the maximum allowed under state guidelines.

"One less predator is out there who can do damage to another woman," commented Biernat after Judge Lamas handed down her sentence.

Tragically, Biernat's loved one was not able to witness justice in this case because of her condition.

Said Biernat, "She will definitely feel a sense of relief and excitement and just gratefulness for the sentence. But no, she will not understand it."

Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty released the following statement to FOX 9: "The victim’s courage in the moments after this attack are a significant reason we were able to prosecute this case and hold Mr. Delong accountable. My heart goes out to her and her family, and I'm hopeful this sentence and legal closure will help them move forward. We are deeply committed to prioritizing the prosecution of violent crime. The message this conviction and sentence sends is that if you commit acts of violence you will be held accountable in Hennepin County, no matter how long it takes."